On February 15, a group of about 20 Access Living advocates and staff were at the Illinois State Capitol to raise awareness and build support for services that promote the independence of people with disabilities. The trip coincided with a meeting of The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) and with Governor Rauner’s annual Budget Address. The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules was expected to vote on Governor Rauner’s proposed overtime guidelines. Access Living, along with others in the disability community and the Union SEIU, have fought for more than a year to stop the proposed guidelines from permanent implementation. The guidelines limit the number of hours a personal assistant can work, take away consumer control, and threaten punitive measures if the rules are not followed. They are a serious threat to thousands of people in the Home Services Program. At the JCAR meeting on the morning of February 15, the committee agreed to delay the vote until March. The delay gives advocates more time to secure the necessary votes to reject Governor Rauner’s proposal.
Cathy Contarino of IMPACt Center for Independent Living speaks at a news conference in Springfield on February 15
Following the JCAR meeting, Governor Rauner delivered the Illinois Budget Address. For the past two years, Illinois has operated without a budget because of disagreements over priorities between the Governor and the Illinois Senate and Illinois House. Though the governor introduced a budget on February 15, the budget will not be implemented without support from the Senate and House. Speaking about the budget address, Amber Smock, Access Living’s Director of Advocacy, said the governor, “did not specifically address disability in the speech, although he highlighted a few concerns relevant to our community, such as ramping up the effort on Medicaid redeterminations. Overall the emphasis was once again on budget cuts, although he did raise the possibility of creating new revenue through income and sales taxes.”
In the afternoon budget briefings, the department heads of Illinois agencies such as the Department of Human Services and the Department on Aging delivered department briefings, which went into more specifics about cuts and funding in Governor Rauner’s proposed budget.
Leaders at Access Living are in the process of closely studying the presentations in order to determine how Access Living and centers for independent living will be impacted.